Unfortunately for me (and millions of other now-adult women), social media arrived just in time for the thrills of adolescence. I can still see the bright-blue AOL CD that arrived during seventh grade; it all went downhill from there. Just a few years later, I created a short-lived and horrible online diary that chronicled a high school relationship involving jail time (his) and emotional long-form poetry (mine). I have had no luck trying to delete it. Then, Facebook arrived in 2004, and my university was given access just in time to make my freshman class the first to already have Facebook profiles the day we set foot on campus.
The most embarrassing part of my online past isn’t even the plethora of inappropriate outfits and the make-out sessions with randos. The worst is likely the thousands of status updates, tweets and posts to friends that are either cries for attention, attempts to be witty or — worst of all — actually honest. Hollywood loves to show a grown child finding mom’s diary and discovering a secret that forever changes their view of their mother. What happens when it’s not just a few pages of private ramblings? What about when my kids are faced with the entire social media persona of 19-year-old me?
If my mother had Twitter, Facebook and Instagram before I was born, childhood me would have obsessively read every word and found every photo. But who would I have seen? I’m not the same person I was at 25, let alone 17. Would seeing my mother separate from the woman she became have changed my idea of her? Would I have looked at her the same? Trusted her the same?
I know I don’t plan to let my kids drink underage, wear nearly invisible bikinis or use foul language whenever they like. But that’s going to be pretty tough to back up when they find a post of spring break 2006.